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Contributor Success Guide
Contributor Success Guide 18
Stock Image And Video 101 Turning Pro
Turn Your Creativity Into Cash 3 It’s the Law Copyright, Trademarks,
A Letter from Shutterstock 4 and Marketplace Integrity 39
About Shutterstock 5 How to Work with Models 41
Why Should You Contribute to Shutterstock? 6 How to Get Access to Celebrities 45
What Are Stock Images? 10 Production Strategies of the Pros 46
Assembling a Team 47
What To Create
10 Ways to Find Trends and Inspiration 12 Resources
What Buyers Are Begging For 15 Glossary 49
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting 17
Video: Get Much Higher Royalties with
a Little More Shooting Time 21
The Ingredients of Top-Selling Stock Images or Videos 24
Submitting to Shutterstock
Copyright 2014 Shutterstock, Inc. This Guide may not be reproduced, displayed,
published, or redistributed without written permission from Shutterstock. Copyright in
Your First Submission and Application Success 26
each image belongs to the artist that created same or the artist’s designee. All images
used in this Guide are licensed through Shutterstock. Links or references to third-party
sites are not intended to be endorsements. Shutterstock is not responsible for the content
Rejection Reasons–Get ALL of Your Photos Approved 31 of such third-party sites. Nothing in this Guide is intended to be legal advice. Shutterstock
makes no warranties or representations related to this Guide’s accuracy or its fitness for
Making Money at Shutterstock: Royalties Explained 36
any particular purpose.
About “Sensitive Use” 37Turn Your Creativity Into Cash
Want to earn cash for being creative? Do you already submit to stock sites, but want to learn more
techniques for mastering sales? Then this is the guide for you. We’ve assembled hundreds of tricks,
tips, and explanations that can help you become a top provider of stock images and video. A Letter from Shutterstock
There has never been a more exciting time to be a member of Shutterstock’s
Today, photographers and illustrators have thousands of creative tools at their
disposal, ranging from digital paintbrushes to affordable HD DSLR video. A global
network of enthusiasts and professionals regularly trades tips and inspiration.
Image buyers are no longer just major publishers and big companies—small
businesses and individuals are licensing images for every use you can imagine.
It’s all happening globally and instantaneously.
At Shutterstock, we want to support artists as they connect with image and
motion buyers in a global, instant, “always on” marketplace. We value our
relationships with our contributors and we want to continue to invest in
With that goal in mind, we created this free guide to being a successful
stock image seller. We hope that you enjoy it and ﬁnd it useful for
building your business. About Shutterstock
Shutterstock is a leading provider of high-quality stock photography, vectors,
illustrations, and video to creative professionals around the world. Our current
library contains more than 35 million royalty-free images and 1.7 million footage
clips. We’ve served more than 400 million downloads to nearly 1 million
customers in over 150 countries since the company was founded in 2003.
Shutterstock supports a contributor community of thousands of photographers,
videographers, artists, and illustrators from around the world. Why Should
In the past 20 years, the business of visual communication
has undergone massive change. Photographs used to be
published in newspapers and magazines once per day
or once per week. Today, there are nearly 3 billion Internet
users consuming visual content 24 hours a day,
7 days per week. Businesses and publishers big and small
ﬁnd themselves in need of more and more visual content.
You can take advantage of this new opportunity by
contributing images and video to Shutterstock. We’re a leading source of revenue for photographers,
illustrators, and videographers.
We’ve served more than 400 million image downloads to nearly 1 million
customers in over 150 countries and 20 languages. According to an
independent survey by a leading contributor website, Shutterstock is
consistently ranked 1 for overall individual earnings among similar
We bring your images and video to customers worldwide.
Each year, Shutterstock invests millions of dollars in global marketing
programs to keep our site a favorite of the world’s image buyers. Our
ads can be seen prominently in search engines, on
leading web sites, and in print around the world.
Our team meets regularly with customers and
contributors at more than 20 leading trade
shows, including shows by HOW, AIGA,
Adobe, TED, and the World Photography
Organization. We travel the globe to
meet and welcome new customers.
Microstockgroup.com, 2013 Microstock Industry Survey, 2/12/2014
Why Should You Contribute to Shutterstock? We respect our customers and contributors.
From our transparent pricing model to our simple website
experience, we believe in putting our customers and
contributors ﬁrst. We talk with both every day.
Contributing work is fast and easy.
We maintain high quality standards with a fast and efﬁcient
upload, submission, and approval process. Contributors
can start earning money within 24 hours of submitting
Enjoy the freedom. We don’t pressure you into exclusively
distributing images or video through Shutterstock. Your
content is yours to control to maximize your selling
opportunities and proﬁt.
Why Should You Contribute to Shutterstock? We believe in continuous innovation
and the value of new technology.
As a technology company, we ensure that our product teams
are always looking for new ways to improve and enhance the
experiences of both customers and contributors. As just one
example, be sure to check out our iPad and iPhone app
We provide valuable tools and information.
Helpful features like our Keyword Trends tool give you valuable
data to make better decisions about your business.
And our favorite reason artists contribute to Shutterstock?
Because it’s fun. Unleash your creativity by joining a
community of thousands of contributors at one of the most
creative marketplaces in the world.
Why Should You Contribute to Shutterstock? What Are
Simply put, stock imagery means any art that already exists and is
ready to use. A stock agency maintains a library of images covering
a large array of subjects and licenses those images to customers.
People often refer to “stock photography,” but “stock” can refer to
any type of visual content, including photos, videos, or illustrations.
Thanks to the ease of distributing digital content over the Internet,
stock imagery has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Stock can provide you an outlet to license all of those images you
have been creating. More than ever, buyers are looking for locally
relevant images that are high-quality and professional. With
Shutterstock’s power to reach art buyers worldwide, we can help
bring your images to the people who want them.
And since images can sell over and over, your creative work can
generate income for years to come. What
To Create 10 Ways
to Find Trends
Images are a means of communication. And just as spoken
and written language adapts over time, visual language does
too. Successful stock contributors keep their portfolios
current and optimized to serve the needs of image buyers.
So where do you go to ﬁnd trends and inspiration? Start
with a paper notebook, a tablet computer, a smartphone,
or any desktop, and keep an “idea journal” or “mood
board” of what you ﬁnd. Here are some places to get
ideas for the imagery you create. Social Media and Online Tools.
What topics are trending? Who are the most inﬂuential people in
news and culture? What causes do they believe in? What issues
are controversial? How could they be illustrated conceptually
Scan the latest headlines. Are there any common themes? What
are the political issues that will carry into the next election? Are
there any emerging or inspirational aesthetic or visual trends?
Home Furnishings and Fashion.
What colors are most popular? What looks were popular in this
year’s fashion shows? What styles are popular in home and
What are the coolest new gadget trends on the technology
blogs? What types of products and technology make headlines
at the electronics trade shows? How do popular products today,
like cell phones or computers and tablets, differ from ones seen
in previous years?
What is changing about ethnic and cultural diversity? How is your
10 Ways to Find Trends and Inspiration The Calendar.
What are the anticipated news, social, and cultural events that
will be coming up in the next year or two?
Your Street, Your World.
What’s different about your neighborhood? The local food?
Local fashion? Architecture? Religion? Cultural events?
There’s increasing demand for “local” and “authentic” images.
Holidays and Celebrations.
What are the popular holidays and celebrations around the
world or in your town?
You should never copy the work of other artists. But you should
keep an eye on what’s interesting and new in the world of art,
including photography. What problems, issues, or concepts are
contemporary artists trying to explore? What new techniques
are available? Take a look at gallery shows, as well as art blogs,
books, and magazines.
Sometimes the old ways are the best. Museums and art
shows that include traditional paintings are great sources
of timeless inspiration.
10 Ways to Find Trends and Inspiration What Buyers
Are Begging For
To maximize your success, you need to understand
what buyers are looking for. We frequently talk to
customers who ask for images with these qualities.
Images that show “authenticity.”
Perfectly posed images of beautiful models are popular, but buyers
tell us every day that they also want authenticity. Images need to
be inspirational, professional, and of high quality, but people and
activities should look natural, relaxed, and “real.”
Images that show cultural diversity.
We live in an increasingly global economy and shared culture.
For years, buyers have been asking stock agencies for images
that reﬂect how culturally diverse our world is in a way that
feels honest and accurate.
Images that show local culture.
Shutterstock serves a global audience. Does a business meeting in
Hong Kong or Rio De Janeiro look exactly the same as one in London
or Rome? Don’t copy “popular” images. Buyers want high-quality
and authentic images of the world as seen through your eyes.Distinct variations from the same shoot.
Buyers often tell us things like this: “The shot was perfect – but we
couldn’t use it because the person was serious, not smiling.” Or the
image was horizontal, not vertical. By shooting distinct and unique
variations of the same scene, you can give a buyer options while
maximizing sales opportunities from a single shoot.
Thoughtful room for text.
Your images need to have a clear center of interest, but have you
thought about how text might be overlaid on the image? Think about
a magazine cover, advertisement, or two-page spread. Where do
photographers leave room for text? What techniques do they use –
like shallow depth-of-ﬁeld – to create a suitable space for text?
Images that they can’t ﬁnd anywhere else.
We were recently approached by a potential customer
who works for a government agency specializing in
wastewater treatment. She was a regular buyer
of images of sewer sludge. Who would imagine
that? Popular themes such as nature, objects,
business, and healthcare may seem obvious
to beginners, but since those categories are
saturated, ﬁnding images of unique subjects
should also be a major part of your portfolio
strategy. These images might not be the top sellers,
but your unique, niche images are up against less
competition, and will help you diversify your portfolio.
What Buyers Are Begging For How to Maximize Your
Proﬁts When Shooting
Even top professionals consider how to save money on production costs to
maximize revenue. Here are the top tips to keep your production expenses low.
Rent—don’t buy—certain equipment.
It’s likely that your camera, basic lenses, and ﬂash are things you want to own. But
studio lighting and other equipment can often be rented in a cost-effective way. Top
professionals often rent equipment when the beneﬁts of renting outweigh the cost of
buying, storing, maintaining, and insuring equipment that could be technically obsolete
in just a few years.
Share equipment and studio costs.
If you know other photographers who submit for stock as well, talk to them about sharing
production costs. For example, studio lights can be rented by the week and then shared
among a few individuals. Always remember that whoever signs the rental agreement is
responsible for the equipment in case something is lost, broken, or stolen, so choose
partners who are trustworthy and responsible. Shoot multiple scenes with your models.
There are photographers who develop entire
portfolios around a few models. While it’s best
to use a diverse selection of models, you should
maximize your time when you have models in the
studio. Different sets, angles, facial expressions,
orientations, clothing, and scenarios are all ways to
maximize the return on a single shoot.
Shoot video and stills at the same time.
More and more cameras have HD video capability.
HD video is an increasingly popular stock medium
and videos are often licensed at higher prices than
stills. There are differences between shooting stills
and video, but you can greatly increase your earning
potential by creating both during the same shoot.
Try before you buy.
Photography software can be very expensive.
Thankfully, many companies like Adobe offer 30-
day free trials of their software. If you’re not sure if
you’re going to need certain functionality, try out a
few software packages before settling on your ﬁnal
workﬂow and committing to making purchases.
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting When you do buy, try to DIY (“Do It Yourself”).
Brand-name video and photography accessories can be
expensive. Thankfully, a large number of “DIY” sites have
been created. Sites like CheesyCam.com have tutorials to
create or buy inexpensive versions of popular items like
video stabilizers, dollies, LED lights, and camera sliders.
Get releases and avoid logos and trademarks.
If your images show people or property, they can’t be licensed
for commercial use without a model or property release. They
also can’t be used commercially if they contain obvious logos or
trademarks. Getting a signed release will ensure that you
get the highest return on your work.
Get creative with your space.
You don’t need a 2,000-square-foot studio to shoot sellable
photos. A clean white bathtub can be used creatively to get
object shots on a white background. Many amazing shots
are taken in garages against a small seamless white or black
backdrop. Be sure to pay careful attention to lighting, but
remember that no one can see what’s outside of the frame.
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting Take good care of your equipment and sell it
when it makes sense.
There are many reasons to take good care of your equipment.
One reason is that camera equipment such as lenses and
ﬂashes often holds its value very well. If you protect your glass,
you might ﬁnd that you can sell it on eBay for almost
as much as you paid for it. Camera bodies might not retain
their value as well, because new technology comes out
with great improvements.
The most important budget-saving technique:
run your business like a business.
Be conscious of exactly what you’re spending on equipment,
models, and each shoot. Keeping track of your expenses with a
spreadsheet is a smart way to increase proﬁts. It’s like dieting:
unless you count calories and weigh yourself, you begin to
quickly lose track of how you’re doing against your objectives.
Set realistic goals and plot a long-term strategy for success.
Top photographers also know that their value is often in
creating images, not keywording and uploading. Images and
video can be sent to third-party production houses to be
keyworded, retouched, and optimized for sales. Or a paid
assistant can do the same. This approach typically applies to
photographers who create thousands of images.
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting